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Dietrich Wiegandt (1934-2016)

Dr Dietrich Wiegandt passed away on 12 April 2016

With the end of the year approaching, we would like to pay tribute to the memory of our dear friend and colleague, Dr Dietrich Wiegandt, who passed away on 12 April 2016. 

Dietrich started working at CERN as a fellow in 1970 and retired in 1999. A physicist by education, he had already converted to informatics before coming to CERN. He started to work on systems programming and networking, including for the OMEGA project. At the beginning of the 1980s, he was working in CERN’s DD Division (encompassing the current IT department plus additional activities), as a member of the team responsible for connecting computers together in a network. At the time, this was a new adventure and a challenge. The team worked with enthusiasm and solidarity to create what became known as CERNET. Dietrich had the special task of linking the network to the IBM mainframe computer. He did this, like every other project he undertook, in a very accomplished and professional way.

As part of his many other undertakings, Dietrich designed and operated the MINT Gateway, whose main purpose was to interconnect recommended mail systems at CERN, but it also had connections to other systems, thus indirectly providing an unequalled number of indirect mail gateways to every possible mail system. In addition, he is remembered for having run the first tutorial with hands-on experience at the CERN School of Computing with great enthusiasm in 1984. He also installed a VAX 11/780 and 16 terminals and kept them running daily until midnight.

Dietrich was a tall, serious and quiet man. Serious but not austere. In fact, in the many years he worked in CERN’s DD/CN/IT divisions/departments, he is known and remembered for having always acted with uncompromised integrity and professionalism. His ideas were very clear. His life as well. He always arrived early. He would sit with his back to his office door, in front of his computer, working relentlessly. Still, when any colleague came into his office to ask him a technical question, he would look over his glasses with the kindest smile and would always offer a solution. Dietrich was a recognised and respected BSD Unix expert, and he gave classes on the subject at CERN and at the University of Geneva. He was able to read core dumps as if they were police novels. He solved everybody's technical problems with the patience of the best teacher. He never entered the protocol war, but he knew the technical solutions he preferred and was an expert at using them. He is mentioned in at least three books on the history of networking and the web:

a. How the Web was Born: The Story of the World Wide Web (J. Gillies & R. Cailliau)

b. Network geeks: How they Built the Internet (B. Carpenter)

c. The “hidden” Prehistory of European Research Networking (O. Martin)

He sang in the CERN Choir and his persona gave a noble interpretation to any Bach cantata or any Schumann lied. He was a true expert and a true gentleman. Those who knew him will always miss him.



His friends and colleagues at CERN